The Bachelorette‘s 13th season has featured the series’ first-ever black bachelorette—a lawyer from Texas named Rachel Lindsay—and unfortunately, it has also featured the show’s first big conversation about unexamined racism.
Back in June, it was revealed that a contestant named Lee Garrett had a years-long track record of offensive tweets. Some were racist, some were misogynistic, but all of them were the kind of red flag you’d assume a production staff would’ve found as soon as they Googled his name.
So during Monday night’s Men Tell All special, where the entire cast reunites to discuss the season before the finale airs next week, host Chris Harrison took the opportunity to ask Lee point-blank whether he was “disappointed” with his appearance on the show. Lee said, “Yes.”
“I have some things I need to fix,” he admitted to the audience. For the most part, though, Lee seemed to have trouble accepting the word racist. “I’m sorry for saying things when I was not educated and ignorant,” he offered at one point.
“You need to claim ownership for the words that come out of your mouth,” asserted Kenny, a contestant Lee called “aggressive” throughout the season. With great patience, the men of The Bachelorette took turns helping Lee examine his own point of view.
Josiah, a contestant who shares Rachel’s legal background, asked Lee to walk everyone through one particular tweet where he compares the NAACP to the KKK. “I want you to articulate to all of us why you came on a show where the bachelorette was an African-American woman, if on the other hand you’re tweeting about black people and groups of black people who fought and died so I can be on this stage next to you?” he asked. “People came before me so I could go to the same school as you, so I could drink from the same fountain as you, and you’re comparing them to the KKK—people who hung my ancestors.”
Anthony, another contestant, pointed out that part of the problem seemed to be Lee’s inability to consider racism as something that’s unconscious. “The racism that is ingrained in your behavior to the point of invisibility is still pushing you to behave in a certain way towards Kenny, towards Eric, towards me, in a way that you don’t even recognize,” he said. “Are your actions motivated by racist thoughts that are implicitly embedded in your mentality?”
Finally, Lee confessed, “That tweet was racist, and I denounce it.” He ended his time in the hot seat by saying, “I want to apologize to Rachel, too.”
Rachel did accept an apology from Lee when she took the stage minutes later, but she didn’t seem to take it too seriously.
“You had such an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by different people and different cultures, and you didn’t take advantage of that,” she said. “I hope that in watching it back you realize that you were a part of something so great. But in case you didn’t, please know that you can exit stage left and meet me backstage. I’d be more than happy to give you a black history lesson and a lesson on women’s rights.”
Fans on Twitter were much less prepared to forgive Lee, and more than a little skeptical of why he was cast in the first place:
Anthony just taught Lee the meaning of implicit racism; this Bachelorette episode is a critical race theory class #TheBachelorette— Sarah Doyel Ⓥ (@sarahdoyel) August 1, 2017
It sucks that Rachel and some of her suitors had to spend their time putting on a clinic this season, but they did an amazing job.